Hell, it seems, hath no fury like a broadcaster scorned. After my recent adventures with RTE’s Pat Kenny, it was only a matter of time before the veteran broadcaster would try to even the score for what he no doubt perceived as slights to the notion that he is capable of being unbiased, objective and responsible on the issue of climate change.
The COP15 gig commences next Monday in Copenhagen, with the great and the good from science, politics and policymaking gathering from the five continents for the world’s most important climate conference since the Rio Summit in 1992. Pat Kenny’s parody of pre-Copenhagen “coverage” involved bringing on a discredited Australian mining industry hack on as an “expert” to challenge the dreadful scientific consensus that Kenny, in the great tradition of Don Quixote, is determined to unseat.
Not by himself, of course, since the man is truly, deeply ignorant on the subject (until today, I thought he was just feigning ignorance; my bad). Anyhow, back to the story. Kenny drew me into his ménage à trois with one Ian Plimer, a professor of geology from the University of Adelaide, and director of at least one, and possibly three, mining companies (this fact not only escaped Kenny’s eagle eye, the great journalist felt it was irrelevant. Duh.)
The purpose of this circus, ostensibly, was to discuss Plimer’s anti-climate change science polemic, which Kenny seems to think was a learned volume on climate science, presumably because he, like me, hadn’t actually read Plimer’s tripe. I had, however, read detailed expert critiques, which are far more useful than wading through the molasses of half-truths, lies and deceptions that Plimer’s little confection consisted of.
A report in today’s Guardian makes interesting reading. Headed: ‘Climate change denial is the new article of faith for the far right’, it outlines a claim by neo-fascist Nick Griffin of the UK’s BNP explaining how climate change was all a left wing conspiracy. It gets better. According to the Guardian, “Prof Ian Plimer then helped the UK Independence party to launch its own declaration of climate change denial this week. Suddenly climate change denial has become a new article of faith among the far right”. Aaaaah, that would indeed be the very same “expert” trotted out by Kenny this morning.
The UK right wing rags such as the Daily Express have, like Kenny, pounced on Plimer’s pack of lies and blown it up into the 180 degree opposite of the truth. Yes, there is a climate scandal, and it’s that people like Pat Kenny are allowed to sabotage this deadly serious debate with their own ideology (in Kenny’s case, it’s as likely spiced up with a bad case of pique as well, since NOBODY talks to him like that, don’t ya know).
In the two years I’ve been operating in the public domain on this topic, I’ve never had a day like today. The phone, texts and email has been buzzing since 11am. Academics and others trying to mobilise action on climate change are dumbfounded that someone as reputable as Kenny can be so utterly, totally, and completely wrong on such an issue of overwhelming public import.
In many ways, it’s sad to see someone I once admired as a decent journalist and gifted interviewer descend in the twilight of his career into a parody of himself – RTE’s real-life version of the fictitious Alan Partridge on Radio Norwich, fearlessly asking the hard questions as he baits local farmers about the giant GM chickens they probably keep in their sheds, etc. etc.
Joel Connelly in the Seattle Post has a terrific piece today on the confederacy of liars and shills. Here’s an extract:
“The climate debate is curious. In one corner, you have scientists working in the field — the U.S. Geological Survey measuring glaciers, NASA scientists recording satellite images on how the Arctic icepack is shrinking, biologists measuring the scope of forest-killing beetle infestations, and statisticians establishing a connection between lack of rain, human displacement and armed conflict.
“Critics, by contrast, never go anywhere near the actual conditions that scientists are measuring and recording. They sit in New York TV studios, the Daily Telegraph’s city room and Drudge’s Florida digs, and spout falsehoods: The distortions, in turn, are eaten up by an audience that is sour, sedentary and suspicious of change”.
Hmmm, “sour, sedentary and suspicious of change”. What a great description. (Viz Plimer, I had meant to slip in Upton Sinclair’s line about the difficulty of getting a person to understand an issue when his salary depends on his NOT understanding it during today’s mugging. Another day, perhaps).
I’ve received a bag or two full of hate emails already today for daring to challenge the climate sceptics and their spiritual leader in Montrose. Of infinitely more value was an email tonight from a Professor Colin O’Dowd, Head Dept. of Physics, NUI, Galway (the full version of the email is in the Comments section below, as submitted to the Irish Times. And for the truly paranoid out there, no, I don’t know Prof O’Dowd, I’ve never met or spoken with him; our first ever correspondence was his email):
“John, I listened with great surprise to the Pat Kenny Show this morning and his appalling and gratuitous treatment of the debate on climate change. His attack on you was disgraceful and apparently driven to justify his own “pedigree” in impartial journalistic skills! Well done in your defense of the onslaught! Kenny should be seriously embarrassed of his professional skill”
Thank you, sir. It’s a good conclusion to what has been a shit day, ruined the rank idiocy on my part of being drawn into a shitstorm of scatological stupidity and dishonesty that embarrasses all concerned. Including me. As regards the numerous personal and professional smears Kenny flung at me today? In the end, I think it was worth it; in his rage, (“apostle, apostle”, etc) his mask dropped long enough to reveal himself in a way that will have surprised quite a few people.
Could I have handled my show-trial better? Abso bloody lutely, but hey, that’s showbiz for you, and it was his show, so my ability to shape it with an openly hostile host who threw away even the pretense of even-handedness, was limited indeed. Too bad, as I had a ton of great questions lined up; for instance, does Kenny think it’s time to fearlessly re-open the “debate” on the dangerous scientific consensus that links smoking and lung cancer? I can find him a list of loons from esteemed institutions in the Deep South (Alabama, perhaps?) who’ll be delighted to spread smear and confusion here too.
Why stop there? Didn’t some expert (Wakefield, 1998) come up with a link between the MMR vaccine and autism? Yea, Pat, why the cover up? The half-truths and innuendos demand to be heard! And your show is just the platform. Oh, and I read somewhere that seat belts are actually dangerous, since you might be trapped in a burning car.
How about HIV and AIDS, didn’t someone, somewhere question the connection there (the skeptics even got the then president of South Africa on board, leading to an estimated 500,000 needless AIDS deaths). Then there’s the great science conspiracy linking CFCs with the destruction of the ozone layer. C’mon Pat, if you’re man enough to continue your anti-science rampage, I’ll happily supply you with a list of pseudo-academics and right wing think tanks willing to provide you with a Plimer-clone on pretty much any of the above.
Sure, we’ve had decades of scientific evidence on all the above, but Pat HATES consensus (such dull, dull radio) so bring on the loons! And not forgetting Patrick Holford, an old favourite of Kenny’s from both radio and TV, and a pseudo-science charlatan and vitamin huckster to his millionaire fingertips. Just Kenny’s kinda guy. Smooth, chatty, friendly and vacuous. And, like our great broadcaster champion at challenging all that stuffy old peer-reviewed “medical/scientific consensus”.
As Erasmus reminds us: “In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king”.